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I. Welcome & Introductions
Tom Tidwell called the meeting to order at about 6:45 PM. Tom Tidwell called the meeting to order at about 6:55 PM. The start of the meeting was delayed to give Yolanda Adrean the chance to come from another meeting (also at the church, involving a presentation by APD Chief George Turner).
II. Approval of Minutes
Minutes for the August meeting were approved. Regarding these September minutes, many attendees did not sign the attendance sheets at the September meeting. The names of some attendees were recovered from the meeting audio and, in some cases, the spelling of their names on page 1 of the minutes was a guess, indicated by (?). In one case, no guess was possible and no entry was made.
III. Admit New Member Neighborhoods
No neighborhoods asked to be considered for BCN membership.
IV. BCN Standing Committees
- Communications – Tom Tidwell reminded attendees that BCN has a new web site at www.buckheadcouncil.org, with a calendar including Buckhead neighborhood events, NPU meetings, and City Council meetings. The web site also provides neighborhood Facebook page information and a wealth of other information.
- Education – No report
- Development/Infrastructure – No report
- Transportation – No report
- Other – No report
V. Ideas for Speakers for future BCN meetings
Tom Tidwell outlined the following suggestions for topics and speakers for future BCN meetings:
- Impact Fees – how are they generated, where do they go. Tom said there are a lot of questions about impact fees, even from City Councilmembers about how they are derived, used, and tracked.
- City Auditor – Tom said the auditor might tell us how the city’s finances are doing.
- Watershed Management – In particular, how the stream buffer variance process works.
- Property tax exemptions – Tom said Beth Beskin is advocating a senior exemption from school taxes.
- Tax Allocation Districts: the philosophy behind them, how they work in real life (this could be a significant issue in the upcoming mayoral race). – Tom said, for example, that Mayor Reed and APS have a dispute over TAD payments.
Tom asked that if there were other suggestions for meeting ideas to send them to
A. Briefing by GDOT on Peachtree Road lane changes
Chairman Tom Tidwell explained at the beginning of the meeting that Andrew Heath of GDOT, who had been advertised as coming to speak to BCN on the recommended lane changes for Peachtree Road was not able to attend, as Tom reported he had found out by phone on Wednesday (September 9). Tom Tidwell apologized, saying it was his fault for not getting the word out and not the fault of anyone at GDOT. Tom indicated that he would try to get Heath to participate at the October BCN meeting. Unfortunately, it was later wrongly reported on several online media sites that Heath had cancelled; this was based on BCN’s statements and written apologies were made to Heath and others that Heath had not been invited until that Wednesday and was not able to schedule his participation. Regrettably, a large number of visitors attended this meeting principally to hear and participate in GDOT’s Peachtree Road lane change presentation. Also, by a show of hands, about 90% of the visitors who indicated they attended principally to hear GDOT’s Peachtree presentation indicated that they disagreed with what they understood to be GDOT’s recommendation. Their understanding was likely based on reports from Buckhead news sites such as the BuckheadView.com, which reported on a preview presentation that GDOT had given the BCID in late August. Reports based on that preview indicated that a six-lane configuration would be recommended north of Peachtree Battle Avenue (a dedicated turn lane with two northbound through lanes and three southbound through lanes); South of Peachtree Battle Avenue, a five lane configuration would be recommended for vehicles (a dedicated turn lane with two through lanes in each direction) along with a bicycle lane in each direction.
Those attendees with a view on the proposed Peachtree changes were given the opportunity to make individual comments on their positions.
- The first to speak, a Habersham Road resident, favored the “hybrid plan”, which had proposed a six lane configuration on Peachtree with three northbound lanes one the southern part of Peachtree Road. He said GDOT’s own numbers show the hybrid plan provides a service level of 3 for that part of Peachtree but the current proposal with bike lanes provides only a service level of 4. He said Peachtree is one of the three arterial north-south streets and is already over capacity and should be dedicated to moving as many cars as quickly as is possible. He said that bike lanes are currently available on Habersham in front of his house. (Applause.)
- A supporter of his position said she felt the issue wasn’t that bike lanes were being added, but that traffic lanes were being removed. She felt with the removal of the traffic lane, congestion would increase and more traffic would be pushed into the neighborhoods, affecting the quality of the neighborhoods. She said, it is not about bikes, it’s about taking away travel capacity on Peachtree Road. She stressed we shouldn’t get in a battle with the cyclists of the world. She suggested that Piedmont Road was the logical north-south route for bikes since it is wider and provides access to MARTA.
- A questioner of the proposed changes wondered if the purpose of the changes was to reduce traffic or to increase pedestrian and cyclist access to transportation. Several responded that the primary purpose is safety, by putting in the dedicated left turn lane. The second purpose is to try to maintain the flow of traffic and that’s what happened on Ponce de Leon.
- Another attendee felt that changes were needed to make Peachtree Road more walkable. In many spots it is treacherous to try to cross Peachtree during lunch time. People end up deciding it’s much easier to drive. He said walkability issues are much more important to him than bike lanes. Tom Tidwell encouraged that attendee to contact Sally Flocks of PEDS, who recently spoke to BCN.
- Another attendee, a Peachtree Road resident, said she’s a 20+ year cyclist and, to her, Peachtree Road has never been a road she would advocate riding a bike on. (Applause.) There are no shoulders – “a road with six lanes of traffic and no shoulders is not a place I’d ride a bike on, given the speed and density of the traffic … taking a lane of traffic and making a bike lane makes absolutely no sense.” She added there are existing bike lanes on Peachtree Road from Piedmont Road up to Lenox Square which, while very nice, don’t make any sense because they span such a short distance. She doesn’t understand what those sidewalks was intended to accomplish other than perhaps helping bike couriers. Another attendee responded that perhaps the bike lanes were added because they might have been a requirement for Federal funding.
- Another said, according to an article in the AJC, only one percent of the Atlanta population would use the bike lanes on Peachtree. Tom responded that they are a very vocal lobby.
- Another commented: the same configuration proposed on Peachtree from I-85 to Peachtree Battle has been done on Ponce de Leon and that’s what Andrew Heath reported to the CID. He quoted Andrew as saying accidents on Ponce de Leon had been reduced significantly and that the throughput had increased using the remaining two lanes in each direction. He said it is really important that we hear from Heath.
- While not disagreeing with the need to hear from Heath, Tom Tidwell said he didn’t know what the decision-making process was. He hoped that we could get state representatives, people who might also have some control over the Peachtree decision, to attend. He thought that would be a much better forum for the topic’s discussion.
- GDOT’s Emily Speaker (?) suggested we prepare a list of questions about the Peachtree proposal and get them to Andrew Heath. That would give him some specifics to respond to when he comes to talk to BCN. Tom agreed to collect those questions. They should be sent to Info@BuckheadCouncil.org and Tom will forward them to GDOT.
B. Ira Witherspoon, GDOT Area Engineer – Northside Drive project
Ira reported that the current Northside Drive project (I-75 to Northside Parkway) is 42% complete. They plan to work in the immediate future at West Wesley and Northside Drive, which will result in a detour from 9pm Friday to 4am Monday. That will allow them to compress work that would otherwise take 22 weeks to a single weekend. Waterline installation from I-75 to Collier Road should be completed sometime in October. After that, they will install storm drains, drainage curbing, retaining walls and sidewalks from I-75 to Collier Road. Work on the southbound side of Northside will be done first, followed by the northbound side. Sidewalks will be installed on both sides. Water lines from West Wesley to Peachtree Creek should be done next. Later in September they will start laying pipe from Collier Road to Peachtree Creek.
More generally, all waterline work should be done by summer, 2016 and the entire project should be done by the end of 2017. Paving work should be done in the fall of 2017. As the waterline work is completed through each intersection, new traffic signals, new handicap ramps, curbs, and pedestrian crossings will be completed. Work will also include widening intersection turn radiuses.
Ira concluded by saying that his contractors do not have the capability to enforce traffic laws. If there are complaints about things like speeding, please contact the Atlanta Police Department.
Tom thanked GDOT for the presentation. (Applause.) He apologized again for not getting Andrew to the meeting. Tom said it was his fault and neither Ira’s nor GDOT’s fault.
C. Yolanda Adrean, City Councilmember, District 8
“District 8 Safety Net”, a Camera Plan for Council District 8
Yolanda said that about a year ago she offered to help neighborhoods subsidize the cost of cameras and license tag readers, but none took her up on the offer. It was too daunting a task to figure out what to get, where to put them, who would maintain them, and how to integrate them into a camera system. She then announced that tomorrow (Friday, September 11), she was meeting with Dave Wilkinson [dwilkinson@AtlantaPoliceFoundation.org, 404-586-0180], president of the Atlanta Police Foundation. As background, Yolanda said that he was an ex-Secret Service officer, was the G-8 Summit “guy”, and now heads the APF. She said he is a real expert on technology. She asked him to design a comprehensive strategy for Council District 8 for cameras and license tag readers. She wants to know what a system looks like and what it’s going to cost. She then wants to know what they should start out with initially. She does not want it to be neighborhood-centric but rather be District 8-centric. She said her district has places where it makes real sense to have tag readers. The tag readers are intended to identify stolen cars and drivers for which there are warrants outstanding. If such a vehicle is identified by the tag reader, the alert will go directly to APD’s Video Integration Center (VIC), enabling the police to take action, perhaps stopping additional crimes. The tag readers are not intended to handle traffic issues such as cut-through traffic.
She noted that a very generous neighbor has already wired all of Tuxedo Park. She said we can go over to Valley Road and see the cameras are huge. The cameras are huge so the bad guys will know the police are watching them. She wants a larger system to let the bad guys know they are not welcome in District 8. She said she has unspent money left over from her council office budget, so she plans to put forward the first $250,000 toward this system. (Applause.) She is seeking money from area businesses and organizations, many of which have already expressed interest. She stressed that the City has nothing to do with this project – everything will be done by the Police Foundation and the vendors they select. She doesn’t expect the system to solve every problem but that it should be a helpful tool. [A meeting about this project was subsequently announced: Police Foundation, Chief Turner and Yolanda Adrean, Tuesday, October 13, 2015, 6:30 to 8:00 pm, Buckhead Theatre, 3110 Roswell Rd.]
A Brookwood Hills attendee from District 6 on the east side of Peachtree said they were about to install a camera system for their neighborhood. He asked if there was any financial help they could look for. Yolanda answered” “Ask Alex [Wan].” She encouraged him to go through the Atlanta Police Foundation, because they have already done the research. She said, for instance, the cameras use cell phone cards for communications and that APF has negotiated a low camera rate (80% reduction) with Verizon.
Transportation and Facilities Infrastructure Bond
Yolanda said as part of this $250 million bond issue approved earlier this year by voters, each councilmember has been allocated $4,130,000 to spend at their discretion on local transportation projects (roads, sidewalks, etc.) and $1,400,000 to spend on facilities.
In addition, there is a city-wide project list, which for Council District 8, includes a number of projects.
- This includes replacing the Powers Ferry Bridge by Chastain Park.
- She asked for four intersection updates, which include Mount Paran/Northside Parkway, Mount Paran/ Randall Mill/Conway Glen, Moore’s Mill/West Wesley, and Howell Mill/Moore’s Mill which was later corrected to Northside Parkway/Moore’s Mill. [There is apparently some uncertainty remaining about this last intersection.]
- Complete street projects (sidewalks, street furniture, street lights, curbing, etc.) include Howell Mill south of Collier into District 9. For road resurfacing, the entire city was rated from “very poor” to “excellent”.
- The approach will be to repave the roads that have the highest use, which for District 8, include Collier Road, West Paces Ferry West of I-75, East Andrews, and West Wieuca.
- School flashers will be installed at all schools.
- Another opportunity is for pairs of councilmembers to combine discretionary funds: her projects with Howard Shook are to improve the Roswell Road/Wieuca Road, Yolanda’s amount to be determined, and Habersham/Piedmont, Yolanda’s amount $100,000 [which may also be funded by the Buckhead CID]. She will also work with Felicia Moore on the Howell Mill extension with Yolanda’s $400,000 contribution from her discretionary funds.
Timeline: The four intersections will enter the design phase soon but it will be six months before physical work begins. The City has hires a deputy commissioner, Larry King, who will join Michelle Wynne who is also being put on the team. As for paving, initial work is being done on the Southside, and supposedly, District 8 is “next”.
Ron Grunwald asked about repaving Deering Road. Yolanda recognized that need and will seek funding.
D. Simon Berrebi, “MARTA Army”
Simon Berrebi is a Georgia Tech student from Paris who is pursuing a PhD in transportation systems. He was scheduled as a speaker but did not attend. (The rain was very heavy.) He is involved in a grassroots group called “MARTA Army” which seeks to increase MARTA ridership. For more information about this group, see https://twitter.com/martaarmy or google “MARTA Army” with quotes – there are several items including a Saporta Report.
VI. Community Concerns/New Business/Announcements
Tom Tidwell asked if anyone wanted to volunteer for a North Atlanta Cluster opening to serve on the SPLOST Advisory Committee. The SPLOST will likely come up for renewal in 2017. If so, contact Tom. State Representative Beth Beskin outlined aspects of legislation which may be considered again next year to exempt senior citizens from property taxes related to public school operations.
VII. Next Meeting October 8, 2015
The meeting adjourned at about 8:15 PM.
Note: The opinions expressed by the speakers and individual neighborhood representatives in these minutes do not necessarily represent those of BCN or its member neighborhoods.